Italian phrase of the day: Buon Giorno
Flying from Portland to Rome takes 14 hours, with a layover. Amanda is a seasoned world traveller, but Scott and I were new at this, and got some advice on medicating through the discomfort and jet lag. First, Billy our ear expert recommended a nasal spray called Afrin which, along with some ear plugs, prevented the post flight ear equalizing action. And we brought some sleeping meds for the long flight.
Scott, alas, took the Ambien shortly before discovering that dinner was being served. It takes about 10 minutes for this drug to take affect, and he stayed…conscious, I guess, for about a half hour, so that he could eat his dinner. Mobile might be a better term. He ate the main course, then started working on the dessert but couldn’t open the wrapper. So he grabbed some plastic ware to assist. When we asked him why he was attempting to open his brownie with a fork, he drowsily told us it was armored. At this point, Amanda pulled out a camera and interviewed him. He, of course, remembers none of this.
I waited until after eating to take the temazepan I’d brought. It helped me fall asleep, but not stay asleep through the 8 hours of screaming babies on the plane. We negotiated our way through the short layover in the land of blonde people and then tried to doze on the short leg, but I have to say we were pretty wrecked when we arrived.
Finding our AirBnB apartment was fun in that condition. It’s a nice little place with a double bed and a daybed, tiny kitchen and a tiled bathroom, with windows overlooking the light well. I recall describing to my companions the structure of a roman apartment building as I’d learned it in the Colleen McCollough books, but we all crashed for an hour nearly immediately.
At 4:30pm local time, we were showered and alive and exploring the city. We meandered through the cobbled streets, seeing old men hanging out of shuttered windows, streets cobbled with square rocks on a diamond pattern, street vendors with a carpet full of handbags, and weathered buildings. There are main thoroughfares are full of automobiles, busses, trams, and scooters. A lot of scooters. Most of the residential area roads are tiny twisty alleys between structures built off the walls of their neighbors. Pedestrians walk out in the streets, making way for slow moving cars and scooters on the tiny roads and waiting for a big enough break to cow the vehicles on the bigger streets. One mustn’t flinch when crossing the street. Alas, I did, and got left at the median while Scott waved and Amanda took pictures of me, stranded amongst the autos and motorini.
We stopped in our neighborhood’s church – Santa Maria in Travestere – but the services were going on, so we didn’t stay to look for the plaque for Belisarius. The fountain out front was a common gathering place – people sat on the steps because basically there isn’t much in the way of public seating anywhere in Italy.
We crossed a river in our wanderings, and realized its the Tiber. Shortly after, we happened upon a block fenced off, with signage in several languages, asking you not to feed the cats that inhabit the excavation below. This was the Torro del Argentina, rumored to be where Ceasar was stabbed. It’s a tram destination (and there’s a feline sanctuary run out of the ruins). History is literally laying out in the open here.
There’s so much history, in fact, that it must be hard to run a city. I mean, they were laying some fiber optic or something and had a street torn up, and we could see brickwork from ancient times. Rome was built on Rome.
There was a nightly art market in booths beside the fountain of the four rivers in Piazza Navono, which was only a little way from the Pantheon. Which is free entry, so since we are here….
The backside of the building is pretty non descript, but the front has the standard rows of columns and the interior is full of warm, colorful inlaid stone and religious icons. The roof is coffered, and while the walls are 20 feet thick and basalt, the dome is made of lighter and lighter material unit its a concrete with pumice aggregate and then the opening at the top, which was the only light source. The interior of the portico roof had been decorated by bronze sheathing, but some Pope stole it to make some additional artwork in the Vatican – more on that later. Also more on the Pantheon later, when we returned in daylight.
But now we’re starving and we pick a ristorante, nearly at random, and have a cheese plate and 3 pastas that we mix and match. Spectacular. On the way back to the apartment, we stopped for gelato in the square in front of Santa Maria, and sit and listen to street musicians and watch passersby while leaning against the fountain, while nearby other diners enjoy the ambiance (and the occasional large candle).
More photos of Rome at Night (note: photo site is thematic rather than chronologic)